National News

China Continues To Push The (Fake) Envelope

NPR News - Wed, 2015-01-28 09:34

A fake bank in Nanjing bilked customers out of nearly $33 million. With trappings of a real bank, like security guards and LED screens, the bank fooled depositors attracted by higher interest rates.

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'We Are the World' turns 30

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-01-28 09:19

Jan. 28, 2015, marks the 30th anniversary of the recording of "We Are the World," a fundraising single that raised tens of millions for African relief and helped usher in an era of all-star recordings and concerts that benefit charity.

The musicians performed as USA for Africa, recording a song written by Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie. Famous names in the studio session included Stevie Wonder, Dionne Warwick, Tina Turner, Kenny Rogers, Willie Nelson, Paul Simon, Cyndi Lauper, Diana Ross, Ray Charles, Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan. The project was promoted by producer Quincy Jones, singer Harry Belafonte and fundraiser Ken Kragen.

"We Are the World" was inspired by "Do They Know It's Christmas?" – a 1984 recording to benefit charity by another supergroup, Band Aid. That project was driven by Bob Geldof, the Irish singer-songwriter and activist. The "We are the World" single, released March 7, 1985, and related Live Aid concerts that followed in July of the same year helped spur other releases and concerts over the next several decades that benefited charity.

Many consider the 1971 Concert for Bangladesh, headlined by George Harrison and Ravi Shankar at Madison Square Garden in New York City, to be the first modern benefit concert.

"We Are the World" was a hit – both as a single and as a fundraising device. It is reportedly one of fewer than 30 singles that have sold more than 10 million copies worldwide. The song, and associated merchandise, eventually raised more than $60 million for African aid, initially aimed at victims of a devastating famine on the continent in the mid-1980s.

Other music-based charity fundraisers that followed this early effort include Farm Aid (1985), "America: A Tribute to Heroes" (2001), Live 8 (2005), Live Earth (2007), "We Are the World 25 for Haiti" (2010) and the Concert for Sandy Relief (2012).

How long can Apple depend on iPhone sales?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-01-28 09:07

Apple had a very good quarter — make that a great quarter. The company announced it made $18 billion in profit for the first quarter of its fiscal year, ending in December. Much of that profit was thanks to the popularity of the iPhone, especially in China, where iPhone sales doubled year over year.

But does that strength belie a potential weakness?

“The iPhone 6 was a great success, but how long can it last and what’s going to be the follow up?” asks Michael Obuchowski, an Apple shareholder and the portfolio manager of Concert Wealth Management. Even though earnings this quarter were strong, Obuchowski says it worries him that 70 percent of revenues were driven by a single product line: iPhones.

Companies that generate most of their sales from one product can be risky, says J.P. Eggers, a professor at NYU’s Stern School of Business. But he thinks Apple’s narrow focus is a source of strength for the company, as it can improve innovation and result in better, higher quality products.

Ramon Llamas, research manager for  IDC’s wearable and mobile phones programs, cautions betting against Apple, noting the company's long history of success in product development. 

Two Israeli Soldiers Killed In Attack Near Lebanese Border

NPR News - Wed, 2015-01-28 08:38

Hezbollah took responsibility for the attack and Israel returned fire, in one of the most serious flare ups of a long-running confrontation.

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Inside the migration of the Maytag factory

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-01-28 08:20

In 2002, people in the town of Galesburg, Illinois, found out they would lose their massive Maytag factory. Employees who had worked at the plant for decades were suddenly jobless. When the plant closed, it was such a shock to the town that, in 2004, then-senatorial candidate Barack Obama mentioned it in an address at the Democratic National Convention.  

Author Chad Broughton's new book "Boom, Bust, Exodus: The Rust Belt, the Maquilas, and a Tale of Two Cities" takes a personal look at what happened when Maytag left Galesburg and reopened in Reynosa, Mexico.

"I played basketball with the manager at the Maytag factory ... everybody in town it seemed was connected to that factory," Broughton says.

Plant workers who had worked in the factory for decades were out of a job, left to find work outside of the only industry they knew. Many Galesburg residents were angered by Maytag's decision to leave town.

"They were very nationalistic, very patriotic," Broughton says. "They thought that this was a profoundly unpatriotic thing to do ... by this very American company, by this quintessentially American company, Maytag."

When Maytag relocated to Reynosa, Mexico, the company went from paying American workers $15.14 an hour, to paying Mexican workers $1.10 an hour - workers like Laura Flora, who found herself with few employment options.

"She ended up kind of stuck there," Broughton says. "So she had to do what she had to do, which was work in these abundant low-skilled jobs, in the maquiladoras," the assembly plants in Mexico.

But the factory Flora worked in wouldn't last either. When Whirlpool bought Maytag, they moved the factory yet again, farther south, Broughton says.

In doing his research, Broughton says he's taken several walks through the now-decaying Maytag factory in Galesburg.

"It's so big still, even though only one third of it still stands," Broughton says. "When it was still entirely there, it took more than a mile to walk from one end to the other...."

The dilapidated plant, Broughton say, "feels hollow now."

Read an excerpt from the book here:

Boom, Bust, Exodus: The Rust Belt, the Maquilas, and a Tale of Two Cities

Inside the migration of the Maytag factory

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-01-28 08:20
In 2002, the town of Galesburg, Illinois, lost its massive Maytag factory. Employees who had worked at the plant for decades were suddenly jobless. When the plant closed, it was such a shock to the town that, in 2004, then-senatorial candidate Barack Obama mentioned it in an address at the Democratic National Convention.  

Author Chad Broughton's new book "Boom, Bust, Exodus: The Rust Belt, the Maquilas, and a Tale of Two Cities" takes a personal look at what happened when Maytag left Galesburg and reopened in Reynosa, Mexico.

"I played basketball with the manager at the Maytag factory ... everybody in town it seemed was connected to that factory," Broughton says.

Plant workers who had worked in the factory for decades were out of a job, left to find work outside of the only industry they knew. Many Galesburg residents were angered by Maytag's decision to leave town.

"They were very nationalistic, very patriotic," Broughton says. "They thought that this was a profoundly unpatriotic thing to do ... by this very American company, by this quintessentially American company, Maytag."

When Maytag relocated to Reynosa, Mexico, the company went from paying American workers $15.14 an hour, to paying Mexican workers $1.10 an hour - workers like Laura Flora, who found herself stranded in Mexico. 

"She ended up kind of stuck there," Broughton says. "So she had to do what she had to do, which was work in these abundant low-skilled jobs, in the maquiladoras," the assembly plants in Mexico.

But the factory Flora worked in wouldn't last either. When Whirlpool bought Maytag, they moved the factory yet again, farther south, Broughton says.

In doing his research, Broughton says he's taken several walks through the now-decaying Maytag factory in Galesburg.

"It's so big still, even though only one third of it still stands," Broughton says. "When it was still entirely there, it took more than a mile to walk from one end to the other...."

The dilapidated plant, Broughton say, "feels hollow now."

Read an excerpt from the book here:

Boom, Bust, Exodus: The Rust Belt, the Maquilas, and a Tale of Two Cities

Is It OK To Pay Pregnant Women To Stop Smoking?

NPR News - Wed, 2015-01-28 08:02

It's notoriously hard to get people to quit smoking. Pregnant women in Scotland were more apt to stop smoking if they got $600 in gift cards. But are those kinds of payments ethical?

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Quiz: Universities take a pass on sexual-assault survey

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-01-28 07:30

More than half the members in The Association of American Universities will not participate in its national survey on campus sexual assault.

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Judge Throws Out Friendship Nine's Civil Rights-Era Conviction

NPR News - Wed, 2015-01-28 07:30

The nine men integrated a whites-only lunch counter in Rock Hill, S.C., in 1961, and refused to pay a fine. Their "Jail, no bail" strategy became a rallying cry against Jim Crow.

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Why Dump Treated Wastewater When You Could Make Beer With It?

NPR News - Wed, 2015-01-28 07:06

An Oregon company has developed a high-tech process for turning sewage into pure drinking water. Now it's asking the state for permission to give its recycled water to a group of home brewers.

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Mr. Taxi Driver, You Are GOING TOO FAST!!!!

NPR News - Wed, 2015-01-28 06:57

Kenya's passenger vans have a reputation for getting into deadly crashes. A new campaign has cut the accident rate with a simple intervention: Stickers that urge riders to speak up!

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Smithsonian In Talks Over London Outpost — Its First Overseas

NPR News - Wed, 2015-01-28 05:57

If negotiations are successful, the Smithsonian would join other attractions at the site of London's Olympic Park.

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Mexico Officially Declares 43 Missing Students Dead

NPR News - Wed, 2015-01-28 05:49

Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto said the events of Ayotzinapa "forces the country to change" toward a "just and free Mexico."

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Jordan Says It's Willing To Swap Prisoner For Hostages Held By ISIS

NPR News - Wed, 2015-01-28 03:58

A video released by the Islamic militants demanded the release of the convicted terrorist within 24 hours, or two hostages — a Jordanian military pilot and a Japanese journalist — would be killed.

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As Nor'Easter Lifts, Life Slowly Gets Back To Normal In Hard-Hit Areas

NPR News - Wed, 2015-01-28 03:05

In Boston, highways started filling up with cars. In Rhode Island, the governor called up 270 national guardsmen to help get the power back on. In New York, the subway resumed regular service.

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PODCAST: Resources are few for homeless youth

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-01-28 03:00

Three magic money making words: "It's Harvard calling." The ivy league school raised more money last year than any U.S. college ever. But they're not the only ones seeing booms in donations. Plus, there's more money on the way at Yahoo once it transfers ownership of its remaining stake in Alibaba. So what's next for the company? And the next time you're reading a magazine, the article you're perusing could very well be an ad. More on that. Also on the program, we'll talk about how the number of homeless children in the U.S. has grown to an all-time high, but the number of resources allocated to help them has not.

Schools rake in record donations ... unequally

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-01-28 02:30

Harvard University raised more money last year than any U.S. school ever: $1.16 billion dollars in the 2013/2014 fiscal year, according to an annual survey from the Council for Aid to Education. That brings the school’s endowment to $36.4 billion as of June; Stanford is runner up with $21.4 billion. 

Part of the explanation is that Harvard kicked off a capital campaign to raise $6.5 billion by 2018, but 2013/14 was a great year for American colleges and universities in the aggregate: they received almost $38 billion dollars, an 11 percent increase over the previous fiscal year and one of the biggest jumps in more than a decade.

 

Donations of property – largely art or land – have increased dramatically

Council to Aid for Education

The bumper year has to do in part with giant gifts of private art collections, but it also has to do with the stock market. Many gifts to schools come as securities or stocks, and the period saw tremendous gains for markets. Endowments in general grew by around 15 percent in the same period.

But just as with personal income in the United States, there is palpable inequality in this accumulation of wealth. Less than 2 percent of colleges raised 30 percent of the money. Even the percentage of alumni who donate is shrinking, while the amount they gave rose. 

Nearly 44 percent of donations are earmarked for student financial aid.

More money than ever is flowing into the top funded institutions. But how much money are we talking about?

1. Harvard University ($1.16 billion)
2. Stanford University ($928.46 million)
3. University of Southern California ($731.93 million)
4. Northwestern University ($616.35 million)
5. Johns Hopkins University ($614.61 million)
6. Cornell University ($546.09 million)
7. University of Texas at Austin ($529.39 million)
8. University of Pennsylvania ($483.57 million)
9. University of Washington ($478.07 million)
10. Columbia University ($469.97 million)

As numbers of homeless kids rise, resources fall short

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-01-28 02:10

On Katie Jeffery’s seventeenth birthday, her mom kicked her out of the house—She then spent four months living on the streets of Cheyenne, Wyoming. Jeffery stayed in hotels, friends’ places, cars, even a shed for a couple of weeks. All the while, she worked to finish up her final year of high school.

“Worst part is, nobody really noticed that I was homeless,” Jeffery says. “Because I showed up every day to school and did what I had to do.”

The number of students experiencing homelessness in the U.S. has increased 85 percent since before the recession, according to Department of Education data. But the resources available to help them have remained flat.

States with small populations—like Wyoming—have seen some of the biggest increases in homeless students, but have the fewest resources. In Cheyenne, there are shelters for adults living on the streets, but nothing for unaccompanied minors like Jeffery.   

“If I was a 35-year-old ex-con, there’s housing, there’s jobs. There’s no problem,” Jeffery says. “I’m a 17-year-old female who’s trying to finish high school and I was given a box of food and a blanket and told to stay out of trouble.”

Kids who, like Jeffery, are crashing temporarily with friends or in hotels, account for the majority of the country’s 1.3 million homeless students. But the Department of Housing and Urban Development, or HUD, only counts people sleeping on the streets or in shelters as homeless. 

“Eighty percent of the children who are identified by public schools are not considered homeless by HUD, and are not eligible for some of the critical services they need to get back on their feet,” says Barbara Duffield, policy and programs director for the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth.

That’s why lawmakers have introduced a bill that would amend HUD’s definition to include the rest of these kids. Opponents say the change could mean fewer HUD services for homeless adults. But Duffield says prioritizing students makes sense long-term.

“By not paying attention to the urgency of child development now, we’re actually creating a system where adult homelessness is being perpetuated,” says Duffield.

Sponsors of The Homeless Children and Youth Act hope to see their legislation taken up by Congress this year. 

 

 

The Koch brothers' $900 million war chest

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-01-28 02:00

Even in the big-money world of politics, $900 million dollars is a striking amount. Some Washington watchers say the fact that the money will come from just a handful of people ought to raise concerns that the U.S. is teetering on the brink of becoming an oligarchy.

Big donors are a relatively rare breed. Data from the Center for Responsive Politics shows that, in the 2012 election cycle, only about 0.4 percent of Americans donated more than $200 to a candidate, political party or political action committee. And, as the 2012 presidential campaign illustrated, the party that spends the most doesn't necessarily win.

Click the media player above to hear more.

How big banks turn prisons into profit centers

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-01-28 02:00

Greg Cavaluzzi spent four years in federal prison, eating cold oatmeal and white bread for breakfast and bologna for lunch and dinner. So the first thing he wanted to do when he was released was to eat "something normal." When his parents picked him up from Fort Dix in New Jersey, he took them to Wendy's.

"We didn't really talk," he says. "We ate. We were just so happy to be next to each other."

He ordered two bacon, egg and cheese sandwiches, and paid for the meal with a JP Morgan Chase debit card featuring a photo of him in his prison-issued khakis, a backdrop measuring his height in the background. The cards are standard in the federal prison system for giving discharged inmates money sent by friends and family or earned at in-prison jobs.

Cavaluzzi's meal cost about $10. Or as Cavaluzzi puts it: "Everything. It was everything. I was used to making $10 a month."

He made that money as a librarian in prison, where wages start at 11 cents an hour. But those hard-earned dollars disappeared faster than he expected, and when he called Chase, he found out the reason was fees.

"It just seemed a little..." Cavaluzzi trails off. "It was sketchy."

The fees on prison-issued debit cards were agreed to in a 2011 contract with a branch of the Department of the Treasury, which provided the schedule of fees below.

It costs 45 cents to check your balance at an ATM, $1.50 if your account is inactive for 90 days, $2 to withdraw money at a non-Chase ATM, and $7.50 to replace the card a second time within a year.

The absolute numbers aren't radically high, but experts say even small penalties can be both more significant – and more insidious –for newly released prisoners, who tend to have less money and banking experience, and face many other barriers to reintegrating into society.

"It's bus fare to a job, it's a meal, it's a room for a night," says Karin Martin, an associate professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York. She researches debt and fees in the criminal justice system. 

"There's this split mentality – on the one hand, we are saying we would like to re-integrate people, and on the other hand, we are having lots of policies that undermine their ability to reintegrate," she says.

Still, contracting with private companies that charge inmates for their services is hardly exceptional.

"The Bureau of Prisons contracts out all kinds of goods and service type things," says Jack Donson, who was a case manager in the federal prison system for more than two decades. "The institution has food vendors, vending machine vendors, halfway houses."

In all of these cases, companies have a (literally) captive market, and prisoners frequently complain about being overcharged. Though there is no competition for the business of prison inmates, there is typically competition for the contracts – as there are for most such contracts with the federal government – for sound economic reasons.

"When it comes to products or service that are somewhat standard, easy to describe, where the deliverables are clear and reasonably measurable, then competitive bidding is by far the most efficient method of procurement," says Steve Tadelis, a UC Berkeley associate professor of business and public policy who has studied government contracts.

A good example of this kind of standardized good or service is a pencil.

"If you're a government agency and you want to procure pencils, well there are gazillion producers of pencils," says Tadelis. An open competitive bidding process asks all pencil producers to make an offer and allows that competition to drive down the pencil price.

But a Center for Public Integrity investigation found that the contract with JP Morgan Chase – as well as a contract between the Department of Treasury and the Bank of America for financial services inside of prisons –were not subject to an open, competitive bidding process.

"When I hear 'no bid contract,' forget prison environment, that does surprise me a little bit," Donson says.

From an economist's view, Tadelis says, it could make sense to skirt competitive bidding, but only if the goods or services are complicated, evolving or difficult to describe.

"From what I've read and heard about these issues with the bank accounts and debit cards, I think it's pretty clear this looks a lot more like a pencil than a fighter jet or a complex IT system," Tadelis says.

Treasury's Office of the Inspector General is now investigating the contracts with JP Morgan Chase and the Bank of America and is expected to issue a report later this year.

Gregg Cavaluzzi now works at the Fortune Society, helping to find jobs for other newly released prisoners.

"Until these banks find a way to make money on the rehabilitation of people, and not the incarceration," he warns, "this will continue."

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